How to write the perfect job application letter

If you’re looking for a flexible career opportunity, you can’t avoid the dreaded job application cover letter (or email as it often is these days). And while some people spend almost as much time crafting a word-perfect letter as they do writing their CV, far too many of us simply rattle off a quick note without thought.

The fact is that a great job application cover letter can decide whether you are called in for an interview. Far from being simply a basic introduction, it’s your chance to show a recruiter that you understand what the job you’re applying for involves and are perfectly qualified and keen to get it.

A simple formula for the perfect job application letter

The good news though is that you don’t need to spend hours agonising over pages and pages of copy. All you need to do is follow a simple formula to ensure that your application gets noticed for all the right reasons.

Address your letter to the right person

Ensure that the salutation to your letter or email addresses the correct person. If you know their name, use it. If not, use their title. Always start with ‘Dear…’, never ‘Hi…’ and double, if not triple, check that it’s spelled correctly. Get their name wrong and they’re unlikely to read any further than that!

Tell them what position you’re applying for and why

Your first paragraph needs to cut to the chase. Explain straight away what position you’re applying for, and briefly outline why you’re perfect for the role. For example:

‘I’m applying for the position of marketing manager. With a degree in marketing and 14 years of experience in the marketing departments of large organisations across Europe, I believe I am ideal for the role.’

Give specific examples

In your second paragraph, pick an aspect or requirement of the job, and briefly demonstrate how you have the experience or qualifications to meet it. For example:

‘The role involves co-ordinating with offices around Europe. I am fluent in French and German and have worked closely with the European marketing departments in my current company over the past two years.’

Tell them about some of your skills

Next look at some of the skills or accomplishments that may be required to succeed in the role. Tell them what skills you have, and how they will benefit them in the third paragraph. For example:

‘I am a member of four European marketing bodies, giving me access to the latest thinking and changes. In addition to being fluent in French and German, I am currently studying Spanish – enabling me to communicate more effectively with your European offices. My considerable experience in delivering presentations will also ensure that I present your key messages to your partners and clients effectively.’

Let them know how keen you are to get the job

While you don’t want to gush or beg, it’s important to convey your passion for the role you’re applying for. So end the letter by letting the recruiter know how enthusiastic (and why) you are. For example:

‘I believe I have the right experience to succeed in this role. It’s an exciting opportunity for me to move my career to the next level, and I look forward to using my existing experience and learning new skills in the position.’

Sign off on a positive note

When ending your email or letter, ensure you sound optimistic. A simple, ‘I look forward to hearing from you’ is perfect. Then end the letter with ‘Yours faithfully’ or ‘Yours sincerely’, depending on whether you know the name of the recruiter, and your name.

Keep your letter short and sweet

Recruiters have very limited time, so ensure you keep your application cover letter or email is short and to the point. They don’t need to know the names of every relevant company you have worked for – that’s what your CV is for.

Make it personal

Just as your CV should be tweaked for every position you apply for, make sure that every job application cover letter is perfect for that particular employer and that position. It’s a good idea to mention the job title and company name once or twice in the letter to show that you’re addressing them directly.

Your job application letter or email is your chance to make the best first impression. And by taking the time to write a considered and personal letter for each job you apply for, you’ll increase your chances of being called for interview – and getting the job. Good luck!

You’ll find lots more great advice on finding and applying for flexible jobs here.